by Hoang Anh
The bloody figure of traffic police officer Nguyen Quoc Dat in his torn-apart uniform last week shocked the nation as he was lying on the road after being dragged some 20 metres under a truck in a hit and run incident on National Route 5 in Ha Noi.
Not only had the truck's driver refused to stop after being given multiple pull-over signals by the police, he decided to speed up and flee the scene, leaving the officer no other choice but to hang onto the front of the truck.
It went on for about 200m before he fell under and was run over by the truck. He was later brought to the hospital with multiple internal injuries and three broken ribs.
Sympathy and support were sent to the officer while the truck driver's action was condemned. He is now facing a possible attempted homicide charge as well as numerous other charges.
While last week's incident was the most severe of its kind, both in its degree of recklessness and violence, it was not too uncommon to hear of cases in which drivers disobeyed traffic police officers and attempted to run away in recent years.
Lieutenant Col. Nguyen Quang Nhat from the central traffic police department told VnExpress on Monday there were at least four to five cases of drivers disobeying law enforcement officers in the last 30 days in Ha Noi alone.
Earlier in October, a driver refused to pull over, sped up his truck and hit a police officer in front of him on Giai Phong Street, Ha Noi. The officer suffered a broken leg.
In March, a similar incident took place in the northern province of Vinh Phuc. A car, while attempting to run away from the police after being pulled over for speeding, hit a police officer, forcing him to hang onto the car's windshield wiper blades until it stopped.
In February, a policeman was seen hanging on top of a taxi on Tue Tinh Street in Ha Noi. It was the same story. The taxi driver did not stop after he was found going the wrong direction on a one-way street, forcing the policeman to jump on top of the car.
In all those cases, drivers later said they panicked and lost control. It was almost unimaginable otherwise to comprehend their decision. In stead of getting a ticket for some minor offence they decided to flee and endangered everyone else, including themselves.
While those drivers would have to face the consequences of their action we cannot help but notice that in such incidents our law enforcement officers were very much exposed and vulnerable. Their responsibility required them to put themselves in danger as the procedure to stop a moving car required them to stand in front of it to pull the driver over.
In light of recent incidents, it's perhaps time for this procedure to be reconsidered. While some may argue it is imperative that drivers who break traffic safety rules must be stopped and the law must be upheld, certainly it should not be done without regard for the safety of our officers.
In cases in which drivers clearly show no sign of being co-operative and are likely to attempt an escape anyhow, making the officer stand in front of the vehicle would only put him in greater danger of being hit or run over.
The safety of law enforcement officers is a priority. In most countries, law enforcement officers are instructed to avoid taking unnecessary risks while carrying out their duties. Not to mention, the image of a policeman hanging on top of a moving car could be perceived by some as a desperate act by law enforcement officers, which does not serve the purpose of maintaining the appearance of the law in the eyes of the public.
It is even more unnecessary given modern technology, including the digitalisation of databases and video recording handheld devices now allow the police to record footage of violations and track vehicles and their owners with ease.
Information on the vehicles could be forwarded to other police patrols and check points which may be better equipped to stop them without putting themselves at risk.
Instead of trying to stop vehicles at all costs, the police may demonstrate that even if drivers somehow manage to escape the scene, they would never be able to escape penalties, which would be much more severe if they try to flee from the police.
What must be done to put an end to violence against police such as last week's incident has little to do with traffic violations, which are often minor offences, but rather the attitude of the drivers in respecting the law and law enforcement officers. — VNS